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Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Bucs beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.

Sikkema’s Stat of the Week

Being a rookie in the NFL is tough enough as it is. You’re at a stage where you’re actively living your dream, knowing you really only get one shot at it. That, in itself, is a ton of pressure. Now throw in the fact that you’re a starter, or an expected starter. That means there’s no time to sit back and acclimate yourself to your new surroundings; you have to contribute right away. Then, on top of all that, throw some draft position hype in there, too – being selected at a high position.

There you have Bucs inside linebacker Devin White.

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected White at No. 5 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, they made him the first off-ball (meaning non-pass rushing) linebacker to go Top 5 since the Seattle Seahawks drafted Aaron Curry at No. 4 in 2009 – which didn’t end up being a good pick. Those Top 5 selections are usually reserved for pass rushers and shut down corners, so the Bucs really were taking a risk when it came to draft value with the guy they selected. But they believed that, though it isn’t a position often prioritized that high, the player and the person they were getting with that pick would make it worth it.

White’s time in Tampa Bay got off to a slow start. He showed flashes of play-making ability in training camp, but when regular season speed set in, he, like any rookie, was a bit overwhelmed. Yet the coaching staff and the players around him continued to tell us that White would be special.

Fast forward to Week 14 and we’re really starting to see that.

Bucs ILB Devin White

Bucs ILB Devin White – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

White injured his knee in Week 2 at Carolina and was forced to miss three games because of it. When he returned, he did so with a brace on his knee. This really limited what White was able to do, especially as a player whose game is built around his speed. But in Week 10 against the Arizona Cardinals, White was finally healthy enough to shed that knee brace and he’s been on a tear ever since. So much so that there’s still a chance he can win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Unfortunately for White, the trends of the award, as of late, are stacked against him as a linebacker. Colts linebacker Darius Leonard did win the award last year, but Leonard was the first linebacker to win the award since Carolina’s Luke Kuechly won it in 2012. However, there is hope in the foundation of the award, as it was dominated by off-ball linebackers for most of the early 2000s. From 2000-2009, eight of the 10 defensive rookie of the years were off-ball linebackers. Leonard and White winning it back-to-back as linebackers would be the first for the position since New England’s Jerod Mayo and Houston’s Brian Cushing back in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

There is a formula for linebackers winning the award, but that formula isn’t going to be kind to White, especially after missing three games in the early stages of the season. Though you could point to the fact that there was a linebacker winner just last year, there are stats we know the voters like to see that White just doesn’t have.

First and foremost, this award, as does the Defensive Player of the Year ward, will lean towards players who get sacks and takeaways. Over the last five years, all five D.P.O.Y. award winners were defensive linemen who racked up the sacks. Sacks, tackles for loss and takeaways such as interceptions and forced fumbled clearly hold the most weight when it comes to swaying the voters in your favor. Because defensive linemen have a better chance at getting those numbers, they usually are the front-runners to win the award, both NFL Defensive Player of the Year and NFL Rookie of the Year honors.

But Leonard and Kuechly did capture the crown, even over some good pass rushers, and as stated before the award was heavily dominated by the linebacker position in years past. The reason for this, though, especially as of late, is the combined tackle total. In both years that Leonard and Kuechly won D.R.O.Y., both of them led the NFL in combined tackles – Leonard had 163 and Kuechly had 165. Unfortunately for White, he isn’t going to get close, as White has just 69 combined tackles through nine games.

Recently White has upped his takeaway impact, grabbing his first career interception and recovering a fumble to score a defensive touchdown. But unless he really continues to take off in those categories over the last four games, even those stats don’t measure up to Leonard’s and Kuechly’s compared to the years those guys won. Leonard had two interceptions, four forced fumbles, seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss when he won; and Kuechly had two interceptions, three fumble recoveries and only one sack, but 12 tackles for loss in his year.

White isn’t going up against those guys to win the award this year, but he does have some fierce competition. The front runner for D.R.O.Y. right now is likely San Francisco 49ers pass rusher Nick Bosa. Bosa’s eight sacks, 14 tackles for loss, interception and forced fumble put him on track to be the favorite for the award as a pass rusher. Jacksonville’s outside linebacker Josh Allen has nine sacks and two forced fumbles, too.

And outside of Bosa and Allen, White might not even be the best off-the-ball linebacker to choose from, which would really hurt his case. Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker Devin Bush has 86 combined tackles in 12 games played, and he has two interceptions, one sack, one forced fumble and six tackles for loss.

Due to the missed time, White’s stats aren’t likely to measure up with the likes of Bosa, Allen and Bush by the time the regular season comes to a close. But stats aren’t the only way to judge a player.

Let’s take a look at White’s film on the next page to see if his performances deserves to boost his D.R.O.Y chances more than his numbers alone.

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: trevor@pewterreport.com
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The Wall
1 year ago

I liked the pick at the time. Rarely do you get a chance to pick the best available and fill a big need. If White wasn’t the best available, he was very close. As it turns out, he lives up to all the billing. Great pick!

EastEndBoy
1 year ago

“I liked Michigan’s Devin Bush slightly ahead of White, and I would have opted for a pass rusher instead of a linebacker if you would have asked me to make a decision on draft night.” Ditto. Look, I like White – he’ll probably become one of my favorites – he’s a beast out there. When you have a chance to pick a pass rushing DLineman of Allen’s caliber….that’s not going to happen often. The Steelers proved that you can get a fantastic MLB later in round 1, but you can’t get a fantastic DE then (at least not with foresight).… Read more »

Bucsfan1983
Reply to  EastEndBoy
1 year ago

Agree with this! Allen should have been the pick. He’s who I wanted. I couldn’t believe he fell to us, only to not take him.

CrackerBall
Reply to  Bucsfan1983
1 year ago

Personally, I would have gone with either DT Ed Oliver or OT Jonah Williams

Benjamin
Reply to  EastEndBoy
1 year ago

Devin Bush was not picked in the middle of the 1st round, he was taken with the 10th overall pick plus I gotta say our OLB’s seem to be playing pretty damn good this season. Even when JPP was out Barrett looked amazing.

wish-in-one-hand
1 year ago

Honestly before we drafted him I knew it would either be D White or J Allen and i was fine with either. I was comfortable knowingif we got him he would be able to contribute and that his Motor was crazy high, . Here’s my post before we drafted him, not boasting just my honest evaluation at the time. “People talk about White and the concerns with his missed tackles but with the information posted, ponder this “In his sophomore year he stood out with a nation-leading 133 tackles while adding 13.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. His junior… Read more »

mbrown758
1 year ago

Excellent content from Trevor Sikkema. I think White is a future HOF candidate. His speed (damn he’s fast), his instincts, and his athletism all add up why the Bucs drafted him at #5. You pair him with David and lights out. It’s just a good fit for Bowles scheme.

Ivan2727
1 year ago

Should’ve taken Dalvin cook in 2017, should’ve taken Derwin James in 2018 & should have taken Josh Allen in 2019.

EastEndBoy
Reply to  Ivan2727
1 year ago

I think those would have been good picks…but not Cook in round 1…he was taken 41st, so what we should have done – and many on PR were screaming to get done at the time – would have been to (still draft Howard in round 1 and then) trade up from 50th (where we took Justin Evans…no comment) to take Cook in round 2. As for James – I suppose there are reports of some behind the scenes stuff that may have turned us off. I was banging the drum for us to trade up 1 slot and take Quenton… Read more »

Bucsfan1983
Reply to  Ivan2727
1 year ago

For sure Cook, James and Allen should have been the picks. They are who I wanted in those moments of the draft.

I love Rojo, but he’s no Dalvin Cook. We could have had a franchise RB, S and DE if Licht knew what he was doing.

Boca James (Boca Raton Florida)
1 year ago

The hit on the kick holder made me jump 7 feet off the couch. I love this guy!

tnew
1 year ago

Easy to go back and redraft. White is panning out. My favorite play this weekend was his 1v1 tackle on Fournette. Didn’t go low and just wrap up. Went body to body and locked him down. Physical battle and he won it. Great middle linebackers have to win that battle. Probably won’t the DROY… based as much as anything on the total play of the defense up to this point, but this guy may be the Shelton Quarles we’ve been looking for, for a long time. That player that turns the whole thing around. Kind of feels like it

twspin
1 year ago

Luv your article here Trevor. I was worried about White for a while. Took him a little time to get going. But he now looks like the real deal for some time to come.

BucRy
1 year ago

I wanted to go pass rusher (Josh Allen) but wasn’t against going for white. The only problem I had with White in college was that he would tackle too high at times, but it hasn’t been a problem for him since being the NFL. I guess it’s mostly cause of how strong the guy is. I don’t think he’s going to win DROY, not to say he’s undeserving, but he just came on a little too late. Overall, I’m very happy with where we are going with him leading the defense! Every bucs fan should be excited about his future.… Read more »

bEubanks11
1 year ago

I was not a fan of White through the draft process. His tackling style and comments about a record breaking second contract in the NFL before even being drafted really turned me off. After seeing how incredibly strong his hands are I’m less worried about his grab and twist takedowns as opposed to the wrap and drive tackle technique we’re used to seeing from the linebacker position. He may miss tackles because of it and other than on punters I don’t think we’ll see the big hits but maybe this is the new style for the nfl? He certainly won’t… Read more »

liquidmuse3
Reply to  bEubanks11
1 year ago

Your concerns about White’s comments about his second contract remind me of the hubbub around Cam Newton saying he wanted to be an icon before his draft, and in both cases it was kinda silly to be concerned, IMO. In both cases, the player’s wished-for scenario only happens if he becomes a good player, so to reach those carrots, they were already providing their own sticks.

Horse
1 year ago

I thought we needed a pass-rusher over a smaller linebacker, quite frankly and still do. White looks like he’s going to be a good linebacker but we have so many other needs. I don’t see him being rookie of the year because of the amount of time it took for him to get there. We still have four games so I think it’s very early even to talk about this subject. Trevor I hope soon you will put something out about what happens if Winston goes down or we don’t sign him. Who is the next man up and where… Read more »

liquidmuse3
Reply to  Horse
1 year ago

So Barrett, JPP, and Nassib don’t exist?

SappAttack
1 year ago

Bosa wins it in a landslide. Some people were arguing for DRPOY and DPOY overall. Some were saying he should be the damn MVP. First impressions are hard to shake and he was the first one to make an impression league wide. Add in the fact that the 9ers have had a huge turnaround this season and tied for best record in the NFC – it ain’t happening. The final nail in the coffin is the 49ers have a national fanbase and are a big market team, then you have the Bucs. Still, I am impressed with Devin White and… Read more »

Buc-Up
1 year ago

I wanted Josh Allen and still do. He has the size 6-5 265 to play OLB, ILB, DE, & DT on passing downs. He has ideal size for the 3-4 OLB & ILB and 4-3 DE. White doesn’t have ideal size 6-0 238 for the 3-4. I like him better as a 4-3 MLB or WLB. I think White makes more of his tackles after the LOS vs behind the LOS like Barrett Rudd got criticized for.

seat26
1 year ago

White is nowhere near Josh Allen. He is a good linebacker and I am now a supporter, but we missed on Allen.

liquidmuse3
Reply to  seat26
1 year ago

They were both on the field last Sunday, and the Bucs have the worst pass blocking offensive line in the league. White was willing his team to victory, Allen was walking off the field hurt.

dexfields22
1 year ago

This is a great article but White have a lot more responsibility on the field than Allen.Allen don’t have to run down field with running backs and TE’s.Time will tell though.Meanwhile somewhere in Tampa JOEBUC is writing articles on who we should sign in the off season while this team is trying to make the playoffs.Keep up the good work Pewter Report.

fredster
1 year ago

I liked the pick then and now even more. He’s starting to look very special. Other guys around him look in slow motion. Gonna be hell of a player and I have no regrets and doubt Bucs will either

plopes808
1 year ago

On draft night, I’d say all of us who read PR knew it was either going to be Allen or White. I would’ve been good with either at the time, but that was before we saw what we had in Shaq Barrett. After watching White out there so far, I think anyone who says they’d rather have anyone else is either too stubborn to admit they were wrong on draft night, or just plain ignorant. There is simply no denying this kid’s talent and fire. He and David will lead this defense for years to come as I still see… Read more »

seat26
1 year ago

I am more impressed with the turn around of our secondary and guard Alex Cappa. Along with the development of ROJO. White was a top 5 pick. Our secondary was a mess last year and the beginning of this year and to our Coaches credit, that has changed dramatically. Of course, having consistent pressure on QBs has helped as well.

aaronkoch
1 year ago

On draft day I want to trade back into the low teens and take Devin Bush (disclaimer I am a lifelong wolverine). I wasn’t sure about taking a non-pass-rushing linebacker so high, but when we didn’t move down in the draft it was inevitable. The upside was drafting an elite athlete in the modern NFL. Hopefully, they can keep the support of a strong front 7, to let him go make plays in meaningful games so he doesn’t become the best player on bad defenses and not get any credit, like Lavonte and so many other non 1997-2002 buc defenders.

jiggyjoe
1 year ago

I liked the pick of White. A defense needs a leader and our leader went and signed with another team after he was hurt. It is too early to tell if White will become a great linebacker…He was in college. As it turned out, White was the perfect fit.

GoldsonAges
1 year ago

White has had a few good splash plays but is not very well rated overall especially in coverage. DROY? That must be a joke right?

scubog
1 year ago

Gotta love the second guesses, the mulligans and the do-overs. Woulda, coulda, shoulda are always words associated with the Draft. After 3/4 of the season is behind us, we can start to get a glimpse of what is to come………..or can we? Still too early to judge whether James should have been the choice over Vea or Allen over White. We can probably close the book on Mariota over Winston. In Bucville, these debates go back all the way to Bell over Dorsett. For me, having endured countless poor choices on Draft day, I’m just pleased that, so far, White… Read more »

rocky
1 year ago

I’m surprised by all the josh Allen comments when no one points to the fact we have a guy on our team with a league leading 14.5 sacks and who we will (god please) resign for years to come this offseason. Devin white doesn’t have the numbers to be the defensive rookie of the year but he has the play to be an incredible leader of this team and talk of the nfl elite players for years to come. Did anybody see him chase down Chris carson to save that touchdown that was ridiculous. Did anybody see him all over… Read more »

surferdudes
1 year ago

It’s hard to screw up the 5th pick in the draft. We couldn’t go wrong with either Allen, or White. There were other players worthy of the 5th pick we could’ve taken also, and still done alright. We’ve had plenty of pass rush this season, and now White showed he can get to the QB lightening quick. With Kwon leaving, and by the way hurt again, White was the right pick. His interception Trev pointed out reminded me so much of the way Brooks used to read those passing concepts, and make picks. We done alright with White, let’s leave… Read more »

Captain Sly
1 year ago

We spend so much time making useless arguments when Player evaluation is not an exact science. This is why so many good players slip through the cracks in the draft process every year. Rookie Josh Allen is having an outstanding year but the most valuable player chosen by the Jaguars was 6th rd pk Gardner Minshew. The only reason why this is true and this is the only reason why is because of his QB replacement value (WAR) He touches the ball every single snap. So the only credible argument for Josh Allen vs Devin White in the draft process… Read more »

EastEndBoy
Reply to  Captain Sly
1 year ago

I see where you’re coming from, but your assumption is that all 80 plays are equal. I’m not sure I would say that last second field goal in the Giants game is equal to the 1st quarter 3rd and 20 we did a draw play on. Nevertheless, I concur drafting a kicker in the 2nd round was a fools gamble….I would just conclude that by looking at where other teams generally are having success in acquiring kickers (i.e., the scrap heap).

liquidmuse3
Reply to  Captain Sly
1 year ago

Except those 4 plays are all scoring plays.

jongruden
1 year ago

Bucs Fans are funny they are so pessimistic “yeah White is good BUT should have drafted Allen” dear lord White was hurt for a big part of the season who is only getting better with more playing time and mark my words he will be a top 3 LB in this league maybe next yr, yeah I said it White will be a top 3 LB possibly by next yr. I loved White in the draft thought he was a beast and Allen was too but with JPP and Nassib didn’t feel is was a priority esp now what we… Read more »

EastEndBoy
Reply to  jongruden
1 year ago

I’m not sure I read anyone being down on White – i.e., pessimistic. I think it’s great for fans to give their views…that was the question Trevor posed after all. I agree that White will be a top-3 MLB…he might be already. I suppose the thing you are not considering though is: yes Allen may have been somewhat of a luxury in 2019, but next year when JPP and Nassib are both gone, and Barrett is now getting extra attention, and we didn’t have a top-5 draft pick to get a new DE, so now we’re starting Nelson (?) opposite… Read more »

chefboho
Reply to  EastEndBoy
1 year ago

Good points eastendboy but your logic is flawed simply because you assume that JPP, Nassib, AND Sue are gone. No way all three of them walk out of this building and that’s something worth betting on. They have the cap space for at least two of the three depending on the Winston situation

liquidmuse3
Reply to  EastEndBoy
1 year ago

They’re signing either JPP or Nassib, and maybe both. 100 million in cap space.

liquidmuse3
Reply to  EastEndBoy
1 year ago

And long term was why they picked White: leadership. JPP and Nassib are leaders, both were here last year, nothing changed. Devin White gets healthy and knocks the rookie jitters around, 3 out of 4 games won. Having an alpha male at MLB means so much, as they impact every play, while the pass rusher is most valuable on 3rd down.

scubog
Reply to  jongruden
1 year ago

Nice to have you back JonnyG.

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